The book of Jude is the second to last book of the Bible, tucked away in the New Testament just before the book of Revelation. Its subject matter, however, is sobering as it warns us to beware of those who falsely impersonate followers of Christ.
Knowing the spiritual commitments and values of those with whom we serve and seek the Lord is of paramount importance if we are to maintain a healthy walk with the Lord. Why? Because God has ordained that we encourage and counsel each other in spiritual and other matters. It is therefore obvious that those who encourage and counsel us be rightly connected to God.
Jude states that the purpose of his letter is for us as believers to be on guard against spiritual imposters (vs. 3). He describes what spiritual imposters are like (vs. 5-16) and then shares five principles for how we might maintain a healthy relationship with the Lord. Jude’s letter therefore ends up being both a source of warning and a source of encouragement, both of which serve to strengthen our walk with the Lord.
In his description of those who impersonate true followers of Christ, Jude exposes the fact that many such individuals tend to elevate their own personal desires and cravings above the timeless, universal principles of God’s written word. Even worse, they tend to be hypocritical about their relationship with God, often using biblical-sounding “lingo” that is completely divorced of any true commitment to Christ on their part personally.
Tragically, many examples of such deceptive teaching abound in the modern marketplace of ideas. Some, for example, teach that God wants everyone to have perfect physical health or to experience lavish financial success. Others propound that one may practice any sexual preference whatsoever, even if it runs counter to God’s word, as long as it is practiced with “sincerity.” Because such teachings can be so deceitful, Jude exhorts us to carefully follow the teachings of the apostles to avoid such costly mistakes.
The first principle Jude shares therefore is that we are to follow the apostles’ teachings and remember God’s warnings regarding imposters in Israel’s past. In verse 18, Jude reports that the apostles of Christ had warned that, “…in the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires” (NIV). The surest way to guard against elevating our feelings and personal inclinations is to submit our desires to the authority of God’s written and unchanging word. Heb. 4:12 tells us that God’s word is like a “sword” that almost surgically cuts down into the fabric of our hearts, figuratively speaking. In doing so, it divides up and reveals to us our personal feelings or inclinations versus God’s principles for righteous conduct. Now, there is nothing wrong with feelings per se since God created us to have them. The danger in using our feelings, however, can result when we follow our feelings even when God’s word exhorts us to the contrary.
Two additional principles are found in verse 20 where Jude writes, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Our faith is built up when we set aside personal time to worship, pray, study and meditate on God’s word. Fruitful fellowship with other like-minded believers also strengthens us. But how do we “pray in the Holy Spirit”? The answer is that we pray in the Spirit as we pray in agreement with the principles discovered in the Bible, while at the same time realizing that God’s Spirit is working in and through our prayers to accomplish His will.
A fourth principle for us to follow is to keep ourselves in God’s love. In verse 21, Jude writes, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Here, Jude tenderly urges us to be nurtured in our souls and hearts with the fact that God loves us! As a newborn baby is fed and strengthened by its mother’s milk, so we, also, are strengthened emotionally and spiritually by realizing that we are deeply loved by God. Of all the things we could count on to bring us peace is the fact that we have God’s love.The final principle we discover is that we must encourage others from doubting the Lord. We are told to “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (vs. 22-23). In ministering to people’s doubts and struggles, we must realize that they have more than likely become deceived by some false doctrine that they heard. As a student of philosophical and critical thought, I confess that there were times when it was tempting to wield the knowledge I had gained to deftly dismantle the false teachings someone had fallen into- even a swordsman would wield their blade. But the Lord has impressed upon me that while someone must be brought to see error for what it is, it also important that we remain patient and considerate with them as they seek to discover the truth they have missed out on. Jude’s exhortation to be “merciful” here is not without great affect in the lives of those who doubt.
In ministering to those who doubt, we are also admonished not to entangle ourselves with the doubtful longings some may have. We do this by staying close to Christ and by not taking too seriously the doubts that someone may be wrestling with personally. To illustrate this principle, Jude draws upon the metaphor “filthy clothes” as used in the Old Testament. In ancient Israel, unclean clothing was to be avoided, both for health reasons and as a representation of the purity that God asks us to maintain in our relationship with him. As a former instructor of Christian apologetics, I have therefore exhorted students of the faith to maintain a strong devotional life with Christ and guard against the false doctrines and philosophies that can be so easily imbibed.
Jude ends his letter by reminding us of the profound and comforting truth that God is able to keep us “from falling and to present [us] before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (vs. 24). Here we discover the truth that God is holding on to us and sanctifying us so that one day we will be spotless before Him.
Remain committed and strong in your relationship with the Lord, realizing that He is committed to keeping you, cleansing you and to one day bring you home to be with Him forever!